The three Spanish architects Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigemand, and Ramon Vilalta have been announced winners of the 39th edition of the Pritzker Prize. This is the first time three architects are named together for the prize, and the second time the winner comes from Spain. They were only preceded by Rafael Moneo who received the prize in 1996.
Originating from Olot, in Catalonian Spain, the three architects have been working together since 1988, when they founded their architecture firm RCR Arquitectes in their hometown. Their work is distinct for its strong ties to surrounding context as well as the connection between the interior and exterior: “Their work demonstrates an unyielding commitment to place and its narrative, to create spaces that are in discourse with their respective contexts. Harmonizing materiality with transparency, Aranda, Pigem and Vilalta seek connections between the exterior and interior, resulting in emotional and experiential architecture.” Among their remarkable projects are La Cuisine Art Center Nègrepelisse, La Lira Theater Public Open Space and El Petit Comte Kindergarten in Ripoll, Spain, as well as Les Cols restaurant marquee in their hometown, Olot.
Rafael Aranda (1961), Carme Pigem (1962) and Ramon Vilalta (1960) completed their studies in architecture at the School of Architecture in Valles (Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura del Vallès, or ETSAV) in 1987, and founded their studio, RCR Arquitectes, in their native city of Olot, in the Spanish province of Girona, the following year.
They established their office, called RCR for their three first names, in Olot, their hometown in the Catalonian region in the northeast of Spain, resisting the call of the metropolis in favor of remaining closely connected to their roots. The process they have developed is a true collaboration in which neither a part nor whole of a project can be attributed to one partner. Their creative approach is a constant intermingling of ideas and continuous dialogue.
The architects have participated in several exhibitions and received multiple awards. They took part in the Venice Biennale for Architecture seven times, last of which was in 2016. They were named honorary fellows of the American Institute of Architects and international fellows of the Royal Institute of British Architect in 2010. They were, also, awarded the Gold Medal by the French Académie d’Architecture in 2015.
Chairman of Hyatt Foundation Tom Pritzker has stated that: “The jury has selected three architects who have been working collaboratively for nearly three decades. Mr. Aranda, Ms. Pigem and Mr. Vilalta have had an impact on the discipline far beyond their immediate area. Their works range from public and private spaces to cultural venues and educational institutions, and their ability to intensely relate the environment specific to each site is a testament to their process and deep integrity.”
The winner of last year’s Pritzker prize was Chilean 48-year-old architect Alejandro Aravena. The executive director of the Santiago-based was also the curator of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. Aravena is the first Chilean architect to be named for the prestigious prize.
The highly-esteemed Pritzker Prize, considered as the ‘Nobel Prize’ of architecture, is an international prize given annually to a living architect “whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.” The Prize was founded by Jay and Cindy Pritzker, from the Pritzker family, after which the prize is named. The prize was first awarded in 1979 to the famous American architect Philip Johnson. The winner of the prize, which is funded by the Pritzker family and sponsored by the Hyatt foundation, is granted $100,000, a formal citation certificate, and a bronze medallion.
The Jury members who have participated in the selection process for his year’s winners of the Pritzker Prize are:Glenn Murcutt (Chair), Stephen Breyer, Yung Ho Chang, Kristin Feireiss, Lord Palumbo, Richard Rogers, Benedetta Tagliabue and Ratan N. Tata
The Jury said about the 2017 Laureates: “Their works admirably and poetically fulfill the traditional requirements of architecture for physical and spatial beauty along with function and craftsmanship, but what sets them apart is their approach that creates buildings and places that are both local and universal at the same time.”
They also added, “All their works have a strong sense of place and are powerfully connected to the surrounding landscape. This connection comes from understanding – history, the natural topography, customs and cultures, among other things – and observing and experiencing light, shade, colors and the seasons.”
They attribute their early success to a first prize victory in a 1988 competition sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Public Works and Urbanism, in which they designed a lighthouse in Punta Aldea by pondering the essence of the typology, a fundamental approach that would resonate throughout all of their future works.
This achievement allowed them to explore their distinctive ideas of architecture, informed by place and their own sensitivities, resulting in winning commissions, many of which were undertaken in Catalonia. It is more recently that they have received international accolades and ventured beyond the Spanish borders with projects in other European countries.